Mango (25)

I pick the big green mango up from the counter, cradle it in my cupped hands. I probe the sides with gentle fingers. I am surprised by how quickly it has softened, even in our late summer heat, becoming almost ripe while I was away overnight celebrating Mami’s birthday. Yesterday in the late afternoon I placed it on the patio table beside a tiny vase of blossoms from my garden to honor the equinox.

green mango with tiny vase of mixed blooms beside it

Now without knowing, I have brought the mango to my face. The sweet, spicy, astringent smell drifts across me. Tears fill my eyes like a yawn, that quick stretching yearning. For one long moment, the scent takes me to Todos Santos. I am sitting at my tall round wrought iron table in the courtyard at Las Flores, marveling over the ripe red mango that has appeared there as if conjured. Later, Alfredo mimes peeling and eating one, not even trying to name it for me, not knowing the word is the same in English except for our terrible American “a” that butchers its beauty. There are three little trees behind the main house. I pass them when I go to use the washing machine. Alfredo brings me more as the weeks go by, sharing the largesse as the season swells and ends. Always they appear on my little courtyard table like sweet offerings to the gods. Sometimes, when he has borrowed my binoculars to look for whales from the steps at the other side of the inn, he will return them to my table with a mango beside them. Back in my desert kitchen, a world away, I roll the big green mango in my palms, my thumbs brushing across it. I press my nose to the firm skin, inhaling, my lips touching, too, my pose a prayer.

Scorpions and Besoconas (24)

I am watering the palm trees and the bougainvillea in the side yard when I think I see a small scorpion curled up against the faded red cement. Even as the possibility takes shape in my mind I have already washed it away. I stand barefoot on the wet stepping stone and point my nearsighted eyes around the edges, hunting for that familiar form. I don’t see the scorpion, but there are dried blossoms everywhere, evidence of my careless gardening. It would be easy to blend in. I bend close to the ground, afraid of spotting it, my wet toes curling at the thought. The scorpions I removed, again and again and again, from our blue house in Todos Santos come back to me now. I can’t remember my exact method, only the stiffness of my arms extended in front of me as I carried the scorpion out to the back patio and with each slow step the stifling of my urge to shriek and fling it violently away.

There were spiders in that home, too. I remember one black body crawling up the orange kitchen wall. It was bigger than my hand, my fingers spread wide. I left it alone, managed not to scream, not go running down the dirt road, gibbering in horror. I shudder even now, make another quick check around the circumference of my feet. All clear. I hose down my knees, my shins, wriggle my toes against the glistening cement. Did I really see a scorpion just now? And if I did, was it dead or alive? I shiver, go back to my watering. There are some things I don’t miss about living in Mexico, I think, as I turn to retrace my steps along the walkway. I wonder if some things, like spiders the size of plates, might even make me hesitate to live there again.

Close-up of Mexican birds of paradise blossoms and buds

I shake my head, as if I could dislodge the thought, and walk through the cool wet to water my tecoma and my Mexican birds of paradise. They are both spilling out of their ceramic pots, encroaching on the path, lush and stunning in their messy late summer opulence. I see the painted gecko peeking out behind them, and I remember the high-pitched kissing sounds of the besoconas who lived in the palapa roof of our first Todos Santos rental. I liked their company, and I miss their cheerful noise. I remember, too, they are great eaters of bugs.

A World without Cars (23)

I’m riding my bike home from the laundromat on the path that runs along Highway 111 when two motorcycles fly past on the road. My body startles and cringes, shock to ears and cells and heart. “Why aren’t things like that outlawed?” I shout to the hot air as I push the pedals in the afternoon heat. “There’s no reason we should have to live with that kind of blaring, grating noise,” I say. I am only grumbling now, my heart finding its rhythm again. I want to live in a world without cars, I think for the fourth time this week. But is there such a place, one without sacrificing all connection to the modern world? If I flee to the country, there is still always a highway somewhere nearby, the steady background of engines and heavy masses moving past. Do any of our communities ban vehicles, the way some ban leaf blowers? If I had moved to Todos Santos ten years earlier, it would have still been a slumbering fishing village on the rise, only a thin ribbon of traffic on the highway marring the quiet. But when the burgeoning expatriate community started building their homes, the first thing the locals did with their money was buy big shiny pickup trucks. What would it have been like to make my way across town on the dirt roads there without a car in sight?

angled entrance of alley in Guanajuato with people walking and pigeons

When I visited Guanajuato, I was thrilled to discover several blocks of their downtown closed to traffic. The streets were for us, for humans walking or climbing the crisscrossing stairways up the steep hillsides, the callejones that branched off all over the small city. I wanted to live there, stood for a long time in the middle of the road studying a house for rent and dreaming. And Ajijic was not a town with motorcycles screaming through it. The narrow cobblestone streets did not lend themselves to speeding. Instead, expats ambled past in golf carts, kids drove ATVs and somber middle-aged caballeros rode their horses, or practiced their parade gaits on a quiet street, the hard hooves ringing against the cobblestones, more music than noise. But here, where many of the surface streets have a 50 or 55 miles-per-hour limit, there are always huge blocks of steel hurtling past you. I shrug off my momentary terror at the motorcycles roaring past and the anger that followed it and keep my bike moving west, glad of the small buffer of palm trees between the highway and the bike path. All those loud chunks of heavy metal rocketing by are disconcerting, a constant looming threat to skin and bones. I wonder, not for the last time, if there is a village or an island in this world without cars I might one day call home. Maybe I need to give Guanajuato another look.